Leave it to establishment Republicans to sacrifice policy on the altar of tactics. As the partial government shutdown rolls into its second week and the so-called debt ceiling deadline draws nearer, we’re beginning to see cracks in a previously unified GOP front against the Affordable Care Act.
After showing spine and bringing to the fore a discussion on Obamacare the likes of which had not been previously seen, some congressional Republicans are citing political tactics as a rationale for surrender. It’s the wrong thing to do, and the message to these Republicans from the grassroots is simple: stand your ground.
Republicans in the House showed genuine courage in linking a Continuing Resolution to Obamacare by attaching amendments to make Congress live under the same rules as the people they represent–and to defund the law thus giving Americans a delay similar to the delay that the Obama Administration gave to big business. Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) refused even to consider such a notion, choosing instead to do nothing and let the federal government slide into partial shutdown mode.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposes ending the impasse by urging his fellow Republicans to give President Obama everything he wishes, ushering in a reopening of the government and an increase in the nation’s debt limit. “We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today–and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow,” writes Ryan in the Wall Street Journal. The only problem with that argument that it’s rooted in a false premise.
Notwithstanding the Obama Administration’s decision to try and close part of the Atlantic Ocean as a consequence of the shutdown, the federal government is mostly open. About 83% of the government is deemed “essential” and open for business. It’s curious that Rep. Ryan is spending more time encouraging his fellow Republicans to cave in to the President rather than trying to figure out why Americans are paying for a federal government that’s only 83% “essential.”
As for our ability to pay our bills, we can, regardless of the debt ceiling. According to Moody’s Investors Services, one of the world’s top credit-ratings services, “The debt limit restricts government expenditures to the amount of its incoming revenues; it does not prohibit the government from servicing its debt.” In short, America will default only if President Obama decides to do so.
Another icon among establishment Republicans, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, believes the entire GOP is owed an apology by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his efforts to fight Obamacare. In truth, it is the other way around. Today’s discussion about Obamacare would not be happening were it not for Sen. Cruz and his outspoken stand against this disastrous law.
It was Cruz and his 21-hour Senate speech that opened the eyes of the nation to the inherent unfairness of Obamacare and helped catapult the issue into the national consciousness. The issue was sufficiently elevated that even the reliably pro-Obama comic Jon Stewart came to learn that Congress and big business were getting a better deal than the American people, breaking ranks with his liberal brethren when he asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why that was.
The secretary informed Stewart and his Daily Show audience that Americans could get a one-year delay in obeying Obamacare if they agree to pay a fine. To the detriment of those who gets their news from comedians, Stewart declined to pursue that line of questioning after the secretary’s response.
Too many politicians forget that the debate over Obamacare is not about tactics; it is about human lives and families. To the extent that more and more Americans are protesting the inequities of Obamacare, fueled in part by conservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) of Utah, grassroots conservatives and the groups to which they belong, House Republicans have been remarkably successful in their legislative efforts. They cannot now betray their success through capitulation.
The discussion today ought to be less about the shutdown and the debt limit and more about the issue that brought us to this place. Obamacare is a disaster unfolding before our eyes, and it is for this reason that American conservatives insist that congressional Republicans stand their ground in opposition to it.